Call To Remove Charity Status from Protest Groups
17 February 2015 at 9:44 am
There’s been an angry response from the Not for Profit sector after the NSW Minerals Council called for the charity status of mining protest groups to be revoked.
NSW Minerals Council Chief Executive Stephen Galilee said that groups engaged in “illegal protests” should not qualify for tax deductibility.
“We are calling on the Australian Government to review the DGR (Deductible Gift Recipient) status of all these groups,” Galilee said.
“Professional anti-mining activist groups who engage in illegal protests or who encourage others to do so should not qualify for tax deductibility.
“There are activist groups out there that campaign against the livelihood of mining workers and their families; who engage in illegal protests that put themselves and others in harms way; and encourage others to break the law. These protest organisations should not receive special tax treatment.
“The fact that these groups can ask the public for money, promoting donations as being ‘tax deductible’ is an outrageous abuse of taxpayer dollars.
“Giving groups like this Deductible Gift Recipient (DGR) status allows them to stand side-by-side with important organisations like The Salvos, Mission Australia and Oxfam – groups that actually help people.
“An analysis of organisations with tax deductible gift recipient status reveals a number of groups whose leadership have either been involved in illegal protest, advocated ‘civil disobedience’ or campaigned against mining jobs.”
But the National Coordinator of high profile advocacy group, Lock the Gate Alliance, Phil Laird said the call by the NSW Minerals Council was an outrageous attempt to shut down the right of farmers to speak out about their concerns on the impacts of coal seam gas mining.
Laird said it was crucial that the NSW public could hear from farmers who were taking a stand against the threats of mining to their community, their land and their precious water resources.
"It's outrageous that the mining industry thinks it can shut down a charity which was created to provide basic support for farmers who are being booted off their land or having their water supplies ruined by multi-national mining companies,” Laird said.
“This smacks of bullying – mining giants kicking communities while they are down, and trying to shut down the one organisation that is there to help them out.
"The Lock the Gate Alliance operates in accordance with a peaceful code of conduct and our main purpose is to protect farmland, environmentally sensitive areas and water resources, and to advocate for people whose properties, livelihoods or health are at risk from unsafe mining operations.
"It's inappropriate for the industry to try and silence community debate on the impacts of coal seam gas and coal mining on communities and the essentials for life, and to take away the basic right of people to have a charity who advocates on their behalf when they are up against some of the biggest mining companies in the world.”
Charity peak body, Community Council for Australia said the charities sector had some limited tax concessions in Australia because its work is about strengthening communities, rather than benefiting individual interests.
“The issue of advocacy by charities is often challenged by vested interests who oppose charities speaking out on behalf of the communities they serve and represent,” Crosbie said.
“Thankfully the High Court and the recently passed new Definition of Charity regulations protect the right of charities to advocate, even if the advocacy upsets the interests of those seeking to generate individual wealth and personal benefit.
“It is also important to acknowledge the need for charities to be focused on achieving a public benefit, which is why the whole charities and Not for Profit sector have so strongly endorsed and supported the work of the independent regulator for the sector, the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC).
“If people have concerns that a charity is not serving the community or working to fulfil its purpose, they can very easily lodge their complaints and have them investigated by this new charities watchdog. The real concern here is that the Federal government has sought to dismantle rather than support the work of the ACNC.”
The Victorian Labor Government has extended the moratorium on coal seam gas exploration until 2016 pending a new inquiry into the impact of the industry.